CERN Council elects European-strategy secretary

At the 186th session of CERN Council, which took place at CERN on 25–29 September, experimental particle physicist Halina Abramowicz of Tel Aviv University in Israel was appointed secretary of the European Strategy Group. This marks the official start of the next update of the European Strategy for Particle Physics, which will reach a conclusion in May 2020, with Abramowicz’s first task being to develop the timeline and a detailed plan.

Abramowicz works on the ATLAS experiment, specialising in perturbative and non-perturbative QCD, and is also a member of the FCAL collaboration devoted to forward detectors for future linear colliders. She completed her undergraduate and postgraduate degrees at Warsaw University in Poland in the 1970s, and also worked on the former experiments ZEUS and CDHSW. “The strategy update is a very important task in preparing the future of our field,” said CERN Director-General Fabiola Gianotti. “We need everybody’s contribution to ensure that we have a strategy that truly reflects the wishes of the field.”

Nobel recognition for discovery of gravitational waves

The 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics has been awarded to Rainer Weiss, Barry Barish and Kip Thorne of the LIGO/Virgo collaboration “for decisive contributions to the LIGO detector and the observation of gravitational waves”. Weiss, of MIT, shares half the SEK 9 million award, while his Caltech colleagues Barish and Thorne share the other half.

More than 40 years ago, Thorne and Weiss pioneered the idea that gravitational waves could be detected, in particular using large laser interferometers that would measure distortions in space–time induced by a passing gravitational wave. Together with Barish, who led the transformation of LIGO from a small R&D project, the trio ensured that the search for gravitational waves would end in success. A fourth key figure in the LIGO story, Ronald Drever, passed away in March this year. He had already shared, along with Weiss and Thorne, in the 2016 Breakthrough prize, Gruber Cosmology Prize and the Kavli Prize in Astrophysics.

The recognition by the Nobel committee for physics comes less than two years after the LIGO/Virgo collaborations announced the first direct detection of gravitational waves in February 2016, followed by a second event a few months later and a third announced in June this year. A fourth gravitational-wave signal was revealed just last month. These and further events open a brand new view of the universe (CERN Courier January/February 2017 p34).

IEEE applied-superconductivity award

The IEEE Award for Continuing and Significant Contributions in the Field of Large Scale Applied Superconductivity was presented to CERN’s Luca Bottura during the European Conference on Applied Superconductivity (EUCAS) on 18 September in Geneva, Switzerland. The award recognises outstanding technical contributions and achievements in the field of applied superconductivity and comprises a plaque, an inscribed medallion, and a cash award of US$5000.

Bottura, who is head of CERN’s magnets, superconductors and cryostats group, was selected for developing computer models for the design and analysis of cable-in-conduit superconductors, measuring the field of the LHC’s superconducting magnets and developing a parametric field model for the LHC operation, leading the development of advanced superconducting magnets for future accelerator projects, and promoting superconducting technology internationally through technical editorship, scientific networking, and the organisation of scientific events.

DOE names top 40 breakthroughs

A 2010 paper from the ALPHA experiment at CERN’s Antiproton Decelerator, which describes the successful trapping of 38 antihydrogen atoms, is one of 40 landmark papers selected by the US Department of Energy (DOE) to celebrate its 40th anniversary. The discovery of the Higgs boson by the LHC’s ATLAS and CMS experiments was also selected. Other particle-physics results listed include:

Fermilab’s discoveries of the top and bottom quarks; the measurement of sin2β with B0 mesons at SLAC; the observation at Brookhaven Lab that free quarks and gluons make a perfect liquid; and the discovery of neutrino oscillations at SNO and elsewhere.

First users at European XFEL

Inaugurated on 1 September, the world’s most powerful X-ray laser – the European XFEL in Hamburg, Germany – has now welcomed its first users. The culmination of a worldwide effort, the facility will eventually fire up to 27,000 pulses of intense X-rays per second to image electronic, chemical and biological processes in unprecedented detail. The first batch of users aimed to get a better understanding of the shape and function of biomolecules, using techniques such as femtosecond crystallography. In this first round of beamtime a total of 14 groups with up to 80 users each will conduct experiments until March 2018.

Sibling celebrations at the LHC

In early October, the ATLAS and CMS collaborations celebrated their 25th birthdays. On 1 October 1992, the nascent collaborations each submitted a letter of intent for the construction of a detector to be installed at the proposed LHC, containing detailed specifications that were close to what exist in the final designs. The letters of intent for ALICE and LHCb, the LHC’s two other large experiments, followed a few months later. Earlier in 1992, some 600 physicists and engineers from 250 institutes worldwide had met in Évian-les-Bains to discuss the physics and detectors of the LHC. Construction of the LHC was approved in December 1994.

The Higgs boson in our lives

On 19 September, CERN Director- General Fabiola Gianotti delivered a public lecture at the University of Geneva titled “The Higgs boson in our lives”, during which she described the Higgs boson discovery and how research into fundamental particles has implications beyond the laboratory. The lecture was part of a rich programme of outreach events associated with the 2017 European Conference on Applied Superconductivity (EUCAS) held in Geneva from 17 to 21 September and co-organised by CERN in collaboration with the University of Geneva and EPFL-SPC (CERN Courier September 2017 p17).

CERN School of Computing marks 40th edition

The CERN School of Computing (CSC) aims to promote advanced learning and knowledge exchange in scientific computing among young scientists and engineers involved in particle physics or other sciences. The CSC, along with the CERN Schools of Physics and the CERN Accelerator School, are the three schools that CERN has set up to help train the next generation of researchers across the laboratory’s main scientific and technical domains.

Since the first CSC in Italy in 1970, the school has visited 21 countries and been attended by more than 2600 students from five continents and 80 nationalities. Participants are young, come from many different backgrounds and all have a passion for computing and science. They work together for two weeks, not only to widen their skills but also to establish lifelong links that will be useful throughout their careers.

The 2017 CSC, which took place in Madrid from 27 August to 9 September, marked its 40th edition. Organised together with the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid (UPM), it welcomed 63 students from 37 different universities and institutes. Representing 26 nationalities, students were selected from a record number of 110 applicants. This year, the usual intensive academic programme (52 hours of lectures and exercises covering base technologies, physics computing and data technologies) was complemented by a rich social programme that included scientific visits to UPM’s wind tunnel and biotechnology lab. At the end of the school, 59 students passed the optional exam – 14 of them with distinctions.

Since 2002, the school has offered a CSC diploma upon successful completion of an optional exam. In addition, since 2008, the university hosting the CSC audits its academic programme and incorporates the CSC into its official teaching programme. As a result, a formal certificate of five or six ECTS (European Credit Transfer System) credit points are awarded by the hosting university and recognised across Europe for any doctoral and masters programme. Since 2005, CSC management has also organised an “inverted” CSC (iCSC) and, since 2013, a “thematic” CSC (tCSC). The idea behind the inverted school is to invite CSC alumni to become teachers themselves at a short school organised at CERN in the winter. The tCSC, on the other hand, is a one-week school that goes into more depth about a particular topic – this year’s was efficient parallel processing of future scientific data.

Applications for CSC and tCSC 2018 will be open early next year. For more information, visit

Strong discussions in Montpellier

The 20th High-Energy Physics International Conference in Quantum Chromodynamics (QCD 17) took place in Montpellier, France, on 3–7 July, involving around 50 participants with a large number of young experimental and theoretical physicists present. The conference is unique in its coverage of all aspects of QCD, from the formal field-theory approach to confinement to its phenomenological facets, in addition to searches for physics beyond the Standard Model.

This year’s event was divided into four main sessions. The first concerned the production of jets, photons, dibosons, top quarks and B and D mesons from various experiments – ATLAS, CMS and ALICE at the LHC, HERA and COMPASS – during which improved measurements of the QCD coupling constant, studies of fragmentation and parton distribution functions were presented. In the second session, the BESIII group presented experimental results for heavy molecules and four-quark states, in addition to properties of light hadrons. These results were complemented by theoretical talks on QCD spectral sum rules, potential models, holographic QCD and glueball searches.

The third session was dedicated to the more formal non-perturbative aspects of QCD, such as confinement, finite temperature and hydrodynamics, while the fourth session concerned low-energy precision tests of the electroweak Standard Model. The latter included recent measurements of lepton anomalous magnetic moments, where consistent results on the measurements of the cross-sections for e+e hadrons were presented by BABAR, BESSIII and CMD-3 and compared to different theoretical contributions (there is now good agreement among different experiments confirming a 3.6σ discrepancy with respect to theoretical predictions).

The conference ended with different precision measurements of the W, Z and Higgs boson masses and couplings, and with experimental searches for physics beyond the Standard Model by LHCb, ATLAS and CMS. Theoretical talks on current LHCb anomalies and on the discreteness origin of particle masses were presented, and the future performance of the ATLAS and CMS detectors was discussed.

With almost equal numbers of theorists and experimentalists present, the conference series is an opportunity for participants to interact in a relaxed atmosphere.

New results presented in this conference also have the advantage of appearing just before the larger EPS and ICHEP international conferences. QCD18 is expected to take place from 2 to 6 July 2018.

Baikal school stays vibrant

Cold waters and hot scientific discussions were the main ingredients of the 17th international Baikal Summer School on high-energy physics and astrophysics, which was held from 13 to 20 July in the small Russian village of Bolshie Koty on the shore of Lake Baikal. More than 50 undergraduate and PhD students from Russia, Germany, Poland, Italy, India and Romania gathered at this remote and scenic location for a full week of Siberian-style scientific immersion, with an intense lecture programme set in magnificent wilderness.

The Baikal Summer School is organised annually by the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research (JINR), Dubna, and Irkutsk State University (ISU). Emerging in the early 2000s as a summer event for local physics students, it evolved into a dynamic, fully international scientific school, and one of the major annual particle-physics events in Siberia. This year, in addition to funding from JINR and ISU, the school received substantial financial support from the Russian Foundation for Basic Research and Russian energy firm En+ group, while the Traiektoria foundation provided books for student prizes.

The lecture programme maintains a good balance between theory, experiment and astroparticle topics, covering the Standard Model, the basics of QCD and B physics, statistical methods and other topics. A selection of results by the ATLAS, CMS and LHCb collaborations were also given, covering Higgs physics, top-quark properties, supersymmetry and exotics searches, heavy hadron spectroscopy and B-meson decays. Students also enjoyed overviews of the vast field of experimental neutrino physics and neutrino-mass model building. The latter were so favoured by the students that the lecturer received an unexpected appreciation prize at the closing ceremony.

The astroparticle aspect of the Bailkal school was equally intense, with introductions to dark matter and its various candidate particles. IceCube’s results on high-energy astrophysical neutrinos were presented, as was the status of high-energy cosmic-ray programmes by the Auger and TAIGA collaborations. TAIGA, located in the Tunka valley near Lake Baikal, and the Baikal-GVD neutrino detector working inside the lake are the two flagship astroparticle experiments in Russia, and many students working in or planning to join these collaborations participated in the school. The astroparticle lecture programme closed with lectures on LIGOʼs recent discovery of gravitational waves.

In addition to lectures, the students presented their own work and participated in regular discussion sessions in small groups. The school offered ample opportunities for students to talk to lecturers outside of normal office hours, and staff from Irkutsk Planetarium organised stargazing sessions under the spectacular Siberian skies.

Preparations for the 2018 school, which will be organised jointly with the European network of doctorate schools in astroparticle physics (ISAPP), are already proceeding at full speed. The ISAPP-Baikal Summer school 2018 will strengthen ties between Europe, JINR and the astroparticle experiments conducted at Baikal.



Teruo Kishi, science and technology adviser to the minister for foreign affairs, Japan, came to CERN on 14 September. During his trip, Kishi, who is professor emeritus at the University of Tokyo, visited the ATLAS visitor centre and signed the guestbook with CERN director for international relations Charlotte Warakaulle and Director-General Fabiola Gianotti.

Deepak Dhital, ambassador of Nepal to the United Nations office in Geneva, came to CERN on 19 September, during which he signed an International Co-operation Agreement between the government of Nepal and CERN concerning scientific and technical co-operation in high-energy physics and related areas.

Maris Kučinskis, prime minister of the Republic of Latvia (furthest left), came to CERN on 20 September. Owing to a short machine stop, he was able to take a quick look at the LHC tunnel and CMS underground area. He also visited the Microcosm, S’Cool LAB and the CERN computer centre.